Curt Ford, in his first major league at bat, singled home Ozzie Smith from second with one out in the 10th inning last night to give the Cardinals a 2-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs in St. Louis and sole possession of first place in the National League East Division.

The Cardinals (38-27), who have won seven of eight, are one-half game ahead of Montreal (39-29). New York (37-28) is one game back in third. The fourth-place Cubs (34-30), losers of 11 straight, are 3 1/2 games behind.

Smith led off the 10th with a single off loser Lee Smith (3-2) and went to second on a wild pitch. After Tom Nieto struck out, Ford, who came up from Class AAA Louisville Monday when Terry Pendleton was placed on the disabled list, hit his game-winner to right.

The game was played before 51,136, the sixth-largest regular season crowd in Busch Stadium history.

Ken Dayley (1-0), the third Cardinals pitcher, went the final two innings to get his first victory of the season. He combined with Bob Forsch and Ricky Horton on a three-hitter

NL batting leader Willie McGee of the Cardinals had two hits in four at bats, the sixth game in a row he has had two or more hits.